Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Huysmans, Joris-Karl

(1848-1907) French novelist, of Dutch descent, who preferred "Joris-Karl" to the "Georges Charles" which were his given names. His À rebours (1884; cut trans John Howard [Jacob Howard Lewis] as Against the Grain 1922 US; new trans Robert Baldick as Against Nature 1959 UK) became the central document of the French Decadent Movement (see Decadence). It describes in blackly comic fashion the exploits of Jean Des Esseintes, who is somewhat in the vein of the Knight of the Doleful Countenance but capable of penetratingly cynical moral insights, and knows that Utopia cannot be found in the actual company of other men (who are despicable) but might perhaps be found in a secluded environment fully stocked with all the products of perverse artistry and ingenious artifice best-suited to keep ennui at bay. A different set of experiential extremes is featured in Là-Bas (1891; trans Keene Wallis as Down There; Là-Bas 1928 France; vt Là-Bas UK), whose protagonist's researches into the life of Gilles de Rais (1404-1440) involve him with contemporary worshippers of Satan. Like its predecessor, Là-Bas was accepted at face value by many unwary readers and became a key work promoting the sensational mythology of the Black Mass; but, also like its predecessor, it is a calculatedly lurid and highly stylized Satire of disillusion. [BS]

Joris-Karl Huysmans


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.